Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Intelligent design advocates have been furiously busy trying to find a way to sneak their views into science classrooms around the country. In Kansas, Ohio, Texas, New Mexico, Michigan and several other states, they have tried a variety of tactics to get in to the curriculum. But if this is any indication of what they want to do with education, I’m not sure whether to be alarmed or amused….

William Dembski is one of the leading voices of the IDC crowd. My friend Rob Pennock sets the scene in his article Wizards of ID on Metanexus:

IDC is a theological movement crafted to win a particular political goal-initially, getting their form of special creation into the public school science classes-in what IDCs take to be the key strategic game in the “culture wars”.

Dembski admits as much even in the title he chose for a course he prepared to teach recently at Trinity Graduate School and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School at Trinity International University: “Intelligent Design-The New Player in the Creation-Evolution Controversy.” In his syllabus for the course, Dembski describes ID as “an alternative to scientific creationism… that challenges Darwinian evolution and its naturalistic legacy.”

Now here’s why I bring this up. Dembski sent the syllabus for this class to Pennock, but I frankly would have been a bit embarrassed to do so if I were him. The syllabus said that 70% of their grade would be based on a “5,000 to 6,000 word critical review of Rob Pennock’s Tower of Babel”. Now here’s the funny part:

“We will not read Pennock’s book for class. Pennock’s book is supposed to be the “state-of-the-art” refutation of intelligent design. Your task is to use what you’ve learned in this course to assess and answer Pennock’s critique of intelligent design. If (per impossibile) you happen to agree with Pennock, then you will need to write a joint critical review of my book [i.e. Intelligent Design] and Pennock’s, showing why intelligent design is a failed intellectual project.”

Let me see if I understand this correctly…70% of the students’ grades will be based on a “critical review” of a book that they’re not going to read.But if they happen to agree with this book they haven’t read, they can do a review of that book and the professor’s book and show why the professor is wrong. Is this what IDC advocates have in mind to do with education? Teach students to critique or agree with books they don’t bother to read? Give them the Faustian choice instead to convince the teacher that his life’s work is false? Yeah, that’s likely to happen.